Audio Quality: What is Echo?

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Echo is very annoying and sometimes, depending on volume or delay, can be very disruptive to the usefulness of a phone conversation. Anyone who has used a digital or IP-phone has had some experience with the effects of echo. Echo without delay typically is not much of an issue, but once delay is inserted into the mix it can get ugly.

Most IP-phones have some kind of echo cancellation capability. Proper configuration of this feature is essential in preventing echo. Other important considerations include managing network congestion on the LAN and monitoring the quality of the Internet connection for delay or packet loss.

Definition

The best way to describe echo is as a mis-match between digital or IP networks and the analog phone network. Echo can sound different based on the amount of data delay it encounters. It can range from hollow, cave-like, or tunnel-like to a full return of voice quality after multiple seconds.

Steps to Troubleshoot

Step 1: Try to classify the delay

Echoes can be caused by a variety of issues. The issue is much easier to troubleshoot and fix once you know what type of echo you are experiencing. There are four common classifications of echo:

a. Talker Echo - This is when the person speaking hears their own voice coming back to them. The typical culprit of this is Internet Issues, but could also be an issue with a headset or speakerphone. If you are able to rule out a bad headset or speakerphone then go to Step 2.

b. Listener Echo - This is when the listener hears an echo of the talker's voice. This is almost always a speakerphone issue or headset issue, but it could also happen if the person calling you is on a digital phone with its own echo problem.

c. Convergence Echo - This is when echo starts at the beginning of the call and gradually fades out as the echo cancellation kicks into action. This is actually a good thing since sometimes echo is unavoidable, tuning out the echo is preferable to a consistent echo. This kind of echo is rare.

d. Feedback Echo - This is when a speakerphone, a headset or a handset with volume too high causes an echo. The simple solution for this type of echo is to turn down the volume of the speakerphone, headset or check for electrical issues.

Step 2: Test your Internet Connection

It is best to test your Internet connection a few times a day for three or four days. Feel free to use our VoIP test, although you have the option to try others.

Your goal is to have packet loss below 3% and delay no greater than 100 milliseconds. A speed test may not catch the issue, so a network specialist may need to be contracted to troubleshoot.

Questions to answer

  • When are the bad calls happening? Could the issue be happening when a scheduled download is being executed?
    • Or if your Internet connection is shared like cable or DSL, it may be happening when there is more strain on the connection, like when kids come home from school.
  • Who heard the Echo?
    • This helps to classify the type of echo.
  • What type of echo was it?Was the call inbound or outbound?
    • Classifying the echo is the first step. If you get it right, the issue is much easier to fix.
  • Was the person User on speakerphone or headset?
    • If so, check volume level.
  • Was this during a conference call?
    • Conference calls can cause trouble all by themselves. Anyone on the call could be causing the echo, making it much more difficult to troubleshoot.
  • Was one of the callers on a cellphone?Is the issue repeatable or is it sporadic? Can it be replicated on demand?
    • Mobile phones are notorious for causing echo.
  • Is it happening to everyone or only a few users?
    • It could be a bad network segment or bad phone.

Let us know your experiences in the comments below. Maybe we can all help each other.

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